The big news out of Baltimore today -- the selection of a new President and CEO for the NAACP, the nation's largest civil rights organization of which I am a subscribing life member.
I read about the announcement today on the NAACP's Web site and thought-- wow! Someone different. But, then I just read the Washington Post story and learned Benjamin Jealous is younger than I.
I'm like-- "wait a minute" the leader of the NAACP is only 35 years ago? Now that is a switch.
At 38, I feel like I can identify with the Gen-Xer who will lead the nation's largest civil rights organization starting September 1. Hey-- he's a journalist. And, not just any journalist-- a journalist who has worked for a black newspaper.
The Jackson Advocate in Jackson, Mississippi is among the organizations on Jealous' resume.
Jealous' hire is exactly the direction that we (since I'm a member I can say that) need to go as we look at the freedom fighters of the 21st century.
Apparently, he wasn't the only 30-something who was a finalist for the position. According to a report in today's Baltimore Sun, a 37-year-old adviser for former president Bill Clinton was also among the finalists.
Having worked in the NAACP as a youngster serving on the local and regional level of the NAACP Youth and College Division, I know what an interesting animal we have here-- in 99 years-- the organization has single-handedly opened doors for people who look like me.
I wouldn't have the great job I have today as a journalism professor were it not for the NAACP.
But at the same time, the NAACP has members who have worked for civil rights all their lives and local branches that are suffering from a lack of enthusiasm and younger leadership.
As its centennial celebration is less than a year away (Feb. 12, 2009), the NAACP sits as an interesting crossroads.
The organization today is choosing to go with younger leadership seasoned with the experience in advocating for black newspapers as head of the National Newspaper Publishers Association and, most recently, immigrants and working class families as head of the Rosenberg Foundation.
An interesting to know that Jealous is the product of interracial marriage where his white father and black mother both participated in the civil rights movement. The NAACP has never been just a black organization. It's future will be dependent on a realization that civil rights issues must be fought be those of all races, colors and creeds.
Jealous certainly can attest to this based on who he is and what his parents did even before he was born.
As I noted in a posting late last year, Freedom is Not Free, and that's something to which Jealous is committing himself at a level that his predecesoor apparently was not as succesful.
According to the Baltimore Sun report, Jealous said he will also focus on supporting the NAACP's nearly 2,000 local units across the country and on using technology more effectively to "pull people into this movement."
Now you're talking my language.
The strength of the NAACP is in its local branches. To the extent that those branches are supported, the organization is positioned for the next 100 years.
And, as someone who knows a little bit about technology, I second the motion to use it to attract more people to the fight for civil rights.